The Rt Hon John Bercow has taken on a new role since standing down as Speaker of the House last week, as a new Fellow of Birkbeck, University of London. The Fellowship was conferred at a graduation ceremony yesterday (Tuesday 5 November 2019), an event he described as a “humbling honour”.
Bercow addressed the graduating class from Birkbeck’s School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy. Offering them advice as they continue throughout their lives and careers, he urged them to “remember Churchill’s motto: KBO – Keep Buggering On, at all times. There are two ingredients to success in life; inspiration, for which I mean talent; and perspiration, much underestimated, must underrated, much undervalued but at least as important. Insist on getting there in the end, because there’s every chance that you will. My most important message is a very simple one: persist, persist, persist.”
As the London’s only evening university, Birkbeck has been at the forefront of providing flexible, part-time higher education to working Londoners for nearly 200 years. Discussing what the Fellowship means to him, he said: “Birkbeck is undeniably unique and, therefore, special. As the only university in the country dedicated to providing evening-taught degrees, part-time study and the opportunity for lifelong education, Birkbeck is a life transformer and a vehicle for social mobility which stands alone. Over the generations, thousands upon thousands of people have expanded their horizons and redefined their lives thanks to the University.
“I have been forcibly struck in particular by just how diverse and inclusive Birkbeck is. The destination of choice for so many mature students, people from low income households, and those from a wide various of ethnic minority backgrounds, Birkbeck is not merely in London but of London, our broad, varied and fascinating capital city.
“As Speaker these past ten years, I have sought to use my office and voice to promote equality, social mobility, and internationalism. To be recognised for my modest efforts with a Fellowship by Birkbeck, a stellar progressive change maker, is a humbling honour.”
State educated, Bercow graduated from the University of Essex with a first-class honours degree in Government in 1985. Elected to Parliament as the Conservative MP for Buckingham in 1997, he has held a variety of front and back-bench roles before being elected Speaker in June 2009. Re-elected to the Chair on 13 June 2017, he became the first Speaker since the Second World War to be elected Speaker a total of four times and is the longest serving holder of the office since 1945.